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Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart on “A Womanist Path to Ending White Christian America” on 3/29

A Womanist Path to Ending White Christian America Poster

Please join us on Wednesday, March 29, from 12-1:30 p.m. in Falvey Library’s Speakers’ Corner for a workshop titled, “A Womanist Path to Ending White Christian America” featuring Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart. 

The recent murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Daunte Wright, and Patrick Lyoya, and others are only the latest episodes in a brutal history of racial violence in this country — racial violence that is the consequence of a white supremacist system. A troubling part of that reality is that white supremacy is grounded in Christian history, texts, ideas, and institutions. Is Christian faith possible apart from anti-Blackness? In this session, we will explore this question as we contemplate the meaning of the end of “White Christian America.” We will study the liberative possibilities found in womanist theology, a discourse developed by Black women.
This session will be facilitated by Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart. Reverend Naomi is an ordained minister, justice advocate, public administrator, and adjunct professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University.
This ACS-approved event, co-sponsored by Falvey Library, Center for Peace and Justice Education, and Theology and Religious Studies, is free and open to the public. A light lunch will be served.



Poetic License: American Dialect Poetry

My case for DCDE’s spring exhibit, “Poetic License: Seven Curators’ Poetry Selections from Distinctive Collections” focuses on American dialect poetry in our collections. Dialect poetry is a style of writing that attempts to replicate the sound and speech patterns of people from a particular region or social group. It has often been regarded with mixed feelings – enjoying immense popularity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but existing mostly outside of the literary canon. When we read these depictions of speech today our initial reaction is likely one of cringe-inducing disgust or dismissal. Yet these examples can be used by students, faculty, and researchers to think critically and open discourse on topics such as racism, stereotypes and bias, the immigrant experience (historically, as well as today), cultural appropriation and authenticity, and to promote cultural awareness and sensitivity.

The case highlights three particular poets writing in this style:


T. A. (Thomas Augustine) Daly, 1871-1948:

Daly attended Villanova College from 1880-1887 and went on to enjoy a prolific career in publishing and newspapers. Villanova holds several copies of his volumes, which sold widely, reaching numerous editions. Daly was best known for his humorous verse written primarily in Italian-American or Irish-American dialect. Critics and reviews in his day generally noted his portrayals of immigrant characters as distinguished by sympathy and understanding rather than as harmful or offensive.

Learn more about T.A. Daly in a previous online exhibit here:


Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872-1906:

During his short life, Paul Laurence Dunbar published twelve books of poetry, four novels, and four books of short stories. He is regarded as one of the first African American literary figures to gain national and international recognition. Briefly married to Alice Moore Dunbar Nelson (1874-1935), a fellow writer later known for her activism in women’s rights, he died of tuberculosis at age thirty-three.

To a largely white audience, Dunbar’s dialect poetry, written in a style associated with Black speech of the antebellum American South, was seen as “authentic,” though he was born and educated in Dayton, Ohio. For Dunbar, this style of dialect was no more natural than it was for other popular writers also known for the style, such as Mark Twain, Joel Chandler Harris, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Distinctive Collections holds several copies of illustrated volumes of Dunbar’s poetry first published by Dodd, Mead, and Co. between 1899 and 1904. These lovely editions are illustrated with photographs by the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) Camera Club, with book cover and interior decorations by noted book designers Alice Morse (1863-1961) and Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944).

Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy,” from Lyrics of the Hearthside (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899) later inspired the title to Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (1969).


James Whitcomb Riley, 1849-1916:

One of the most well-known and best-selling poets at the time of dialect poetry’s height of popularity was James Whitcomb Riley. Known as the “National Poet,” the “Hoosier Poet,” or “Children’s Poet,” for his Indiana-based Midwest regional dialect, his homespun poetry was often humorous and sentimental. Riley began his career writing for newspapers and gained fame performing and reading his poetry on traveling public speaking circuits. Two of his best loved poems are “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphant Annie.”



Be sure to stop by Falvey’s first floor to see the entire exhibit in person this spring and watch the blog for most posts from the curators!


Rebecca Oviedo is Distinctive Collections Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.




Foto Friday: Poetic License

“Poetic License” is now on display on the Library’s first floor. The exhibit features poems selected from Falvey Library’s Distinctive Collections. Seven curators were given “poetic license” to curate an exhibit case; selecting specific materials to tell a unique story. Rebecca Oviedo, Distinctive Collections Archivist, focused on American Dialect Poetry, “a style of writing that attempts to replicate the sound and speech patterns of people from a particular region or social group.” Pictured above is Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy” from his book Lyrics of the Hearthside (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899). “This poem later inspired the title to Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).”

Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.




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Weekend Recs: Black Independent Film

Happy Friday, Wildcats! Falvey Library is delivering you another semester of Weekend Recs, a blog dedicated to filling you in on what to read, listen to, and watch over the weekend. Annie, a graduate assistant from the Communication department, scours the internet, peruses the news, and digs through book stacks to find new, relevant, and thought-provoking content that will challenge you and prepare you for the upcoming week. 

Wednesday marked the beginning of February, or Black History Month, a month dedicated to sharing and honoring the histories of Black Americans and the African diaspora. One such history is that of Black independent film in the United States.

Movies are a large and enduring cultural staple in the U.S., and Black filmmakers have been a vital yet underrepresented (and underappreciated) force in the film industry. In fact, Black independent film companies have been driving forces since the 1920s, a history that is often overshadowed by the (very white) studio system images of early Hollywood. This weekend’s recs will shed some light on some key moments in Black independent film history.

If you have 10 minutes…and want the sparknotes on Black independent film history, read this article.

If you have 15 minutes…and want to learn about an anti-Hollywood Black film movement from history, read Ntongela Masilela’s “The Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers,” the seventh chapter in Black American Cinema, available at Falvey. This 1970s movement dubbed the “L.A. Rebellion” was heavily inspired by Third Cinema and largely utilized black and white film.

Bonus: if you’re into indie and art-house cinema, watch Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep from the L.A. Rebellion movement, available in Falvey’s DVD Collection.

If you have 18 minutes…and are asking yourself what counts as a “Black film,” read Tommy L. Lott’s “A No-Theory Theory of Contemporary Black Cinema,” available online through Falvey. It brings up some thought-provoking dilemmas on how scholars conceptualize and study Black films.

If you have 30 minutes…and want to read about one of the earliest films to tackle racism and lynching, in response to the horrific Birth of a Nation, read Jane Gaines’s “Fire and Desire: Race, Melodrama, and Oscar Micheaux,” the third chapter in Black American Cinema, available at Falvey.

Bonus: if you want to check out one of the earliest Black independent feature-length films, watch Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates, available through inter-library loan.

Photo from Pamela Ferrell on Wikimedia Commons

If you have 1 hour and 30 minutes…and enjoy the mockumentary style, watch Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman, available online through Falvey. The film follows Cheryl, who plays a version of herself, as she makes a documentary film trying to find the identity of a Black queer actress from the 1930s, dubbed “The Watermelon Woman.” This Black queer classic is genuinely enjoyable and, as a bonus, is even set and filmed in Philadelphia.

If you have 1 hour and 52 minutes…and are a fan of artsy period pieces, watch Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust. This film, the first film (ever) directed by a Black women to get a general theatrical release in the U.S. in 1991, dedicated by Dash to Black women in particular, tells the story of a Gullah family during the Great Migration who is faced with the choice to stay on Saint Helena Island, their familial home, or leave for mainland America. Daughters of the Dust also features non-Western storytelling techniques, Gullah culture and language (I would recommend subtitles to get the full experience), and absolutely gorgeous cinematography.

Bonus: If you’re a fan of one of the most iconic Black independent filmmakers of all time, Spike Lee, watch Do the Right Thing (a personal favorite of mine) and BlacKkKlansman, both available online through Falvey.

Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Library. 

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Falvey Celebrates Black History Month

African-American Navy Yard Workers sewing parachutes in the aircraft factory of a large eastern shipyard (Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Courtesy of Wiki Commons.


Falvey Library, as a part of Villanova University’s community, celebrates Black History Month through academic events like “The End of White Christian America: Faith Apart from Anti-Blackness,” which will examine untangling Christian faith from white supremacy. (Note: this event has been postponed and will be rescheduled.)

Additionally, we offer several robust resources that explore black history and culture through Falvey’s databases, including the Subject Guide on Black and African American, within the Library’s diversity and inclusion section.

To quote Juwan Rainer ’19 in the guide’s introduction: “…we cannot do this alone. I welcome you to educate yourself about the struggles we have and unfortunately still continue to endure physically, mentally, and verbally. Ignorance is bliss but only to the ignorant.”

For a Villanova-focused look at Black History, consider Black Villanova: An Oral History, which covers the African American student experience at the University, roughly 1950-1985. This features voices and firsthand accounts of campus life from the students who lived them. Of special interest is the video Back and Black: A Celebration of the African American Experience at Villanova.

Falvey’s electronic and physical collection contain many books that discuss Black History and, just as important, challenge how we think about and create narratives about that history.

Africana Studies research guide:

African American Studies Center (Oxford University Press)
Contains a selection of information sources ranging from the authoritative Encyclopedia of African American History to the African American National Biography project. Selected primary sources, maps, images, charts, and tables round out the collection.

The Black Scholar
The leading journal of black cultural and political thought in the United Sates.
Recent issues focused on Black archival practice, Black religion in the digital age, post-soul Afro-Latinidades, and Caribbean Global Movements.

Newspapers and magazines of broad interest:

  • RIPM Jazz Periodicals Collection (NEW at Falvey)
    This new database features access to digitized copies of 140 jazz journals and magazines including the Metronome, the Jazz Record, In the Groove, Down Beat Music, The Jazz Review, The Rag Times, Radio Free Jazz, and the Jazzbeat among others.
  • Black Historical Newspapers (ProQuest)
    Offers access to the major African American newspapers of the 20th century: the Atlanta Daily World (1931-2003), the Baltimore Afro-American (1893-1988), the Cleveland Call & Post (1934-1991), the Chicago Defender (1910-1975), the Los Angeles Sentinel (1934-2005), the New York Amsterdam News (1922-1993), the Norfolk Journal & Guide (1921-2003), the Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001), and the Pittsburgh Courier (1911-2002).
  • Black Panther (Marxist Internet Archive)
    Presents digital copies of surviving copies of the Black Panther newspaper. The Black Panther was the official organ of the Black Panther Party. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the newspaper in Oakland, California in 1967. It ceased publication on September 16, 1980.
  • The Crisis (NAACP)
    1910-1922 issues are freely available through the Modernist Journals Project.
  • Ebony
    Free access to digital color issues from November 1959 to December 2008 via Google Books.
    Free access to digital issues from November 1945 to December 2008 via the Internet Archive.
  • Freedomways (Independent Voices – Reveal Digital)
    Free access to the complete digital archive (1961-1985) of one of the leading African American opinion magazines. Founded by Louis Burnham, Edward Strong, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Shirley Graham Du Bois, the magazine chronicled the American civil rights movement and Pan-Africanism.
  • Muhammad Speaks (Independent Voices – Reveal Digital)
    Free access to the complete digital archive (1961-1975) of the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam.

    Books about Black History:

We hope you’ll dip into whichever resources most appeal to you as part of learning about Black History in addition to taking part in the virtual and in-person events held in Falvey and across the campus.

Links above were curated by Jutta Seibert, Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement at Falvey Library.

"" Shawn Proctor is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Library.




Dig Deeper: Sidney Poitier

Falvey Memorial Library’s Dig Deeper series explores topics of importance in our society and the news. It connects these subjects with resources available through the Library, so our faculty, students, and staff can explore and learn more, potentially sparking new research and scholarship.

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Sidney Poitier, the first ever African American actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor (lead), was an iconic figure in both film history and Black history, which is celebrated each year in February.

Sidney Poitier’s story is still one that has been revered as a success-story of hard work and exceptionalism against the constraints of a Hollywood landscape that was by no means welcoming to Black actors. As detailed in Goudsouzian’s biography Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon, after moving to America, Poitier was mocked at his first theater audition in Harlem for his strong Bahamanian accent and difficulty reading. Fueled by this reaction, he reportedly picked up a few newspapers that day and taught himself to read and speak without his accent.

His determination, hard work, and new Americanized self-made persona landed him several successful auditions, and eventually, after securing his first lead role in Blackboard Jungle, Poitier was one of the most notable Black actors working in Hollywood in the 1950s and 60s, a time when Black film-making and acting in Hollywood reached a particular low point.

Poitier received his first Academy Award nomination for his role in 1958’s The Defiant Ones. His historic Academy Award victory came a few years later for his role in Lilies of the Field (1963). By 1967, he proved to have the biggest box office draw in Hollywood, with his films In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, and To Sir, With Love.

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Nicknamed the “Ebony Saint,” the majority of his roles were double-edged swords, depictions of Black exceptionalism to the extreme, leading to his persona facing criticisms. Namely, Black critics argued that his roles did not represent the social reality of Black people in America, as detailed by Arthur Knight.

Ultimately, with the coinciding rise of Black power politics and the Blaxploitation film cycle in the early 1970s, the pendulum swung the other way, and Black actors began to play action-hero roles rife with vengeful masculinity and overt sexuality.

Some saw Poitier for his individual exceptionalism and self-made success, an image of hope that the American Dream was real and integration was possible. Others saw him in relation to what he was up against, a Black star at the whims of white Hollywood elites, a man tasked with being one of the sole representations of Blackness in Hollywood.

Yet, Poitier’s dramatic talent is something that fans and critics alike largely agree upon. Sidney Poitier was an actor by trade and talent, and he was able to masterfully portray the characters he was given. And, as Knight argues, despite the restrictiveness of his roles, Poitier was even able to subtly rebel in his acting, adding in glimpses of pleasure.

Thus, even a year after his death, Poitier is still revered by many for his work. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, one of Poitier’s famous films, even just got its third iteration, with You People starring, among others, Eddie Murphy and Jonah Hill.

Dig deeper and explore the links below for more on Sidney Poitier.

Find resources on Sidney Poitier at Falvey:

Other resources on Poitier:

Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Library.



Reading the Bible in Black

By Ethan Shea

"Bible in Black Session 2 Photo"

On Feb. 8 and 15, Theology and Religious Studies Professor the Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart gave the Villanova community two exciting opportunities to partake in a guided reading of the Bible with Black ways of knowing and being in mind. The first session focused on passages from the Old Testament while the second analyzed excerpts of the New Testament. This talk was especially timely, as Villanova continues to celebrate Black History Month.

An important aspect of the discussion was the decentering of Biblical narratives. The Rev. Washington-Leapheart encouraged the audience to consider how characters placed on the outskirts of stories would have been impacted. To practice such a reading, it is necessary to acknowledge the baggage readers and the Bible itself carries. Even today, the Bible is used to push specific narratives that are tied to various political ideologies. Everyone reads texts from unique perspectives, and similarly, the Bible cannot be separated from its past, which the Rev. Washington-Leapheart points out can be problematic.

In addition to decentering, placing the Bible in conversation with current issues impacting Black communities across the globe, such as police brutality, is a critical feature of reading the Bible in Black.

"Bible in Black Session 2 Image"A specific moment of close reading that stood out to me involved Genesis 15:18-21. In these verses, the Lord gives Abram land that belongs to the Kenites, Kenizzites, and Kadmonites among many other groups. Rather than rejoicing about Abram’s acquisition, Rev. Washington-Leapheart led the crowd to consider the plight of the Kenites, Kenizzites, and Kadmonites. Would they have seen this gift from the Lord as a blessing? By reframing the way we read the Bible, the narrative that has been established through years of social and cultural immersion can be flipped.

Falvey is glad to have had the opportunity to host such an insightful conversation. Both installments of these talks will soon be available to view on both Falvey Library and Villanova University’s YouTube channels.

Part I:

Part II:

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


Black History in Documentary Films

February is over, but at Falvey, Black history is always part of our collections. One way to learn about facets of this vital component of American history is through documentary films. Read on to learn about some library-subscribed streaming video platforms, and to get some great film recommendations!

Falvey offers Villanova’s students, staff, and faculty access to thousands of documentaries via our streaming subscriptions. Most of our documentaries come to us via Academic Video Online (also known as AVON). AVON offers more than 70,000 films and documentary TV episodes from distributors including PBS, the BBC, Bullfrog Films, Ro*Co Films, California Newsreel, and many others. Most films include searchable full text transcripts. Browse the Film Platform and Black Studies subcollections to get a sampling of AVON’s contents.

Academic Video Online (ProQuest) – Images from the Black Studies film collection

We also license a changing set of documentaries and feature films on the Kanopy platform. You can think of these films as long-term rentals, selected on the basis of faculty requests. Once campus-wide access is purchased, the film remains available via the library catalog for up to three years. Click here to view the films currently available to the Villanova community via Kanopy.

Here are ten documentaries currently screening via AVON and Kanopy that relate to the history of Black Americans. Click the image to access the film.

Banished: A History of African American Expulsion (2007)


Black and Blue (1987)
On the history of race and policing in Philadelphia


The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016)


I Am Not Your Negro (2016)


John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020)


Let the Fire Burn: Tragedy in Philadelphia (2013)


Olympic Pride – American Prejudice (2016)
On the other 17 Black athletes who participated in
the 1936 Berlin Olympics… beyond Jesse Owens.


The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (2002; 4 episodes)


T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s (2013)


Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014)

Enjoy exploring these great films!

Susan Turkel is a Social Sciences Librarian at Falvey Memorial Library.

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Black History Month: 4 Author’s Debut Books

In recognizing Black History Month, here is a list of four rising Black authors who have recently released their debut books. I recommend adding these to your reading list for 2021 and maybe even picking one up to read this month.

Regina Porter’s The Travelers

Regina Porter’s The Travelers is a novel looking at family and race relations between two families over the course of 50 years. With a background as a playwright, Porter published this, her debut novel, in 2020. The novel was named one of the best books of the year by Esquire and was a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. 

Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age

Published in late 2019, Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such a Fun Age explores themes of what it means to be family, the complex reality of adulthood, race, and privilege. When Emira Tucker is accused of kidnapping the 2-year-old she is babysitting, both Emira and the girl’s mother’s lives are turned upsidedown. Such a Fun Age was the winner of the African American Literacy Award and a finalist for many other awards.

Robert Jones Jr.’s The Prophets

Robert Jones Jr. has written for many publications, although The Prophets is his debut novel. The Prophets is a piece of historical fiction following two young men on a Deep South plantation. Jones’s novel has received many accolations thus far including The New York Times Book Review‘s Books to Watch for in January and one of O, the Oprah Magazine’s 32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021.

Nadia Owusu’s Aftershocks

Nadia Owusu’s first memoir, Aftershocks, is a mix of memoir and cultural history, as Owusu switches between talking of her childhood growing up to a daughter of a United Nations official and of her adult life in New York. Aftershocks explores themes of identity, the meaning of home, and emotional trauma. Owusu’s book was selected as one of 13 new books to watch for in January 2021 by the New York Times, one of’s 55 most anticipated books of 2021, and is the current Read with the Other Jenna book club pick for February.

Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department.


Douglass Day: Transcribe-a-thon Featuring Mary Church Terrell

By Kallie Stahl 

Born enslaved, abolitionist leader Fredrick Douglass never knew his exact birthdate, so he chose to celebrate every year on Valentine’s Day. After Douglass’ death in 1895, many people, including Mary Church Terrell, (an activist, educator, and author), began honoring his legacy, celebrating “Douglass Day” every Feb. 14. What began as a recognition and remembrance of Douglass’ memory and life of activism grew into a “collective act of radical love for Black history.” In the 1920s, Dr. Carter G. Woodson expanded Douglass Day to a week-long celebration of Black history, and in the 1960s student groups turned Woodson’s week-long commemoration into a monthly celebration—”Black History Month.”

A more recently developed Douglass Day celebration is an annual Transcribe-a-thon when historical documents are read to commemorate and preserve Black history. “Transcriptions improve search, readability, and access to handwritten and typed documents for everyone.” Join fellow Villanovans at the University’s Transcribe-a-thon on Friday, Feb. 12, at noon. In addition to transcribing the papers of Mary Church Terrell, Dr. Charlene Sinclair, founding director of the Center for Race, Religion, and Economic Democracy and the program coordinator for the Interfaith Organizing Initiative, will also be presenting. Join the virtual event here.

Looking for more Douglass Day events? Join By the People (Library of Congress) for transcriptions of Terrell’s papers on Friday, Feb. 12 and Sunday, Feb. 14. View the full schedule of events here. For more information on Mary Church Terrell, check out former graduate assistant Daniella Snyder’s blog post.

Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library. 




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Last Modified: February 12, 2021

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